Lexington raises prices of pool pass for families of 6 or more; cuts price for individual pass

bmusgrave@herald-leader.comApril 23, 2014 

Chandler Hayhurst, 10, does a back flip off the diving board at Southland Aquatic Center in Lexington, Ky., Sunday, May 29, 2011. Photo by Matt Goins 12070

MATT GOINS

Families of six or more will pay more for an annual pool pass that allows unlimited access to Lexington's seven pools. But individual annual pool passes will drop by $10.

A 15-member parks advisory board voted for the changes Wednesday after more than an hour of debate on how to rein in fraud in the popular pool pass program.

Beginning this summer, annual pool passes for a family of six will be $200 — an increase of $40 from previous years. Up to two more family members can be added to the six-person pass at $20 each, raising the total cost for a family of eight to $240.

[See Lexington pool fees, calendars and descriptions]

To offset the increase in the family pool pass prices, the parks department will cut the price of the individual pass from $50 to $40. About 80 percent of pool passes sold are individual passes, parks officials said.

Brian Rogers, a deputy director for the city's parks and recreation department, told the board during Wednesday's meeting that the city was not equipped to manage fraud in the family pass program.

"We were asking 16- and 17-year-old cashiers to make a determination on what constitutes a family," Rogers said.

U.S. Census data show that the average family size in Lexington is a little less than three people. But most of the family passes were for more than six family members, Rogers said.

Rogers said that the parks department had originally planned to do away with the family pass and lower the individual rate. But after receiving pushback from the community, the department decided to revisit the issue.

In addition to having problems policing the family pass program, the parks department found that other cities charged more for family passes but offered access to fewer pools.

For example, Versailles charges $245 for its annual family pass for a maximum of five people. Nicholasville, which has one aquatic center, charges $100 for an individual pass and $180 for a family pass that limits the pass to two adults, with no limits on the number of children.

Much of Wednesday's meeting centered on how to rework the program so the parks department could better manage it, with the goals of decreasing fraud, making access affordable for lower-income families, and encouraging more people to use the pools. The pools have a budget of about $1.5 million but generate only $600,000 in revenue. Attendance at the pools has started to decline, Rogers said.

Rogers told the group that the parks department hopes to receive funding in the next year for Internet access, which can be used to monitor who is using a family pool pass. Rogers said he is not sure how much the upgrade will cost. All of the information is now on paper.

Meanwhile, one suggestion was to sell books of tickets at a discounted rate, and require that everyone who enters the pool have a ticket.

Another idea came from board member Brock Marquette, who suggested allowing families to get discounts for individual annual passes a family or group buys. That would allow families to get a discount but would do away with the family pass.

Such procedural changes will have to wait, because the pools open on Memorial Day weekend — a little less than a month away. It will be difficult for the parks department to implement a new program before swim season begins, Rogers said.

Evelyn Bologna, the acting superintendent of the parks department, said lower-income families who qualify for the department's scholarship program can get family passes at half price. Families who receive free and reduced lunch and are on other government programs can qualify for the discounted rate. About 100 families on average qualify for the scholarship program, Rogers said.

Beth Musgrave: (859)231-3205 Twitter:@HLCityhall

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